The Third Branch
Legislative Council proposals advance
By Nancy M. Rottier, Legislative Liaison
Editor’s note: This is an update to an article on the work of Wisconsin Legislative Council study committees that ran in the Summer 2014 edition of The Third Branch.
Four Legislative Council study committees whose work will directly impact the court system completed their work in December 2014, and the resulting proposals are advancing through the next steps of the legislative process.
On Feb. 11, the Joint Legislative Council, made up of 22 legislative leaders of both houses and both parties, overwhelmingly voted to introduce bills prepared by the Study Committee on Problem Solving Courts, Alternatives and Diversions, and by the Study Committee on Adoption Disruption and Dissolution.
Reports from the other two of the committees, the Study Committee on Transfer of Structured Settlement Payments and the Study Committee on the Review of Criminal Penalties, will be considered by the Joint Legislative Council on March 18.
Problem-Solving Courts, Alternatives and Diversions
Based on the study committee’s work and recommendations, the Joint Legislative Council has introduced Assembly Bills 50, 51 and 52.
Assembly Bill 50 relates to access to ignition interlock device reports and occupational license eligibility periods for participants in certain treatment projects. The bill would:
- Require the Department of Transportation to promulgate rules to require ignition interlock device providers operating in Wisconsin to provide courts with the same installation, service, and other requested reports currently provided to the department and law enforcement agencies. The rules would also require providers to notify courts of any tampering violations.
- Authorize a court to order that a person ordered or sentenced to comply with a treatment court is not subject to the 45-day minimum waiting period for eligibility to obtain an occupational license, which is otherwise applicable to a person with two or more prior operating while intoxicated (OWI) convictions or suspensions. The person would still be subject to the 15-day minimum waiting period for eligibility to obtain an occupational license.
Assembly Bill 51 creates a grant program for family or juvenile treatment courts. The grant program would be administered by the Department of Children and Families and make grants available to counties to create programs that screen, assess, and provide new dispositional alternatives for parents whose children have come under the jurisdiction of the children’s court or for juveniles who have problems related to mental illness or substance abuse.
Assembly Bill 52 creates a state Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, amends the current Treatment Alternatives and Diversion (TAD) program and makes other changes supportive of problem-solving courts. AB 52 would do the following:
- Codify the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) in the Department of Justice. The current CJCC was created by and operated under an Executive Order since 2012.
- Clarify that tribes, in addition to counties, may qualify for TAD grants.
- Broaden the scope of the TAD program beyond alcohol and other drug treatment to encompass mental health treatment and other forms of treatment, provided the program is evidence-based and designed to promote effective criminal justice policies to reduce prosecution and incarceration costs, reduce recidivism, and enhance justice and public safety.
- Require projects to specify whether certain violent offenders will be allowed to participate and if so, require victim advocates to be involved in project oversight.
- Require the Department of Justice to prepare, or contract for, a program evaluation every five years, to be funded from the TAD appropriation.
- Support the creation of and appropriation for the Supreme Court to fund a statewide treatment court coordinator in the Director of State Courts Office.
- Provide express authority for a court to order that a probationer may be confined in detention at the probationer’s place of residence as a condition of probation.
AB 50 has been referred to the Assembly Committee on Transportation, and AB 51 and 52 have been referred to the Assembly Committee on Corrections. All bills would have to be adopted by both houses of the Legislature and be signed by the governor before becoming law.
Adoption Disruption and Dissolution
The Joint Legislative Council also recommended four bills for introduction as developed by the Study Committee on Adoption Disruption and Dissolution.
Assembly Bill 39 makes two changes to adoption proceedings. One would extend jurisdiction and venue in an adoption proceeding, in order to allow the matter to be heard in the county in which a petition for termination of parental rights to the child was filed or granted. Under current law, jurisdiction and venue are allowed in the county in which the child or proposed adoptive parent resides. The other change would require all counties, licensed adoption agencies, and the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare to use a standardized qualitative assessment system to investigate foster care and adoptive homes. The assessment system would have to be approved by the Department of Children and Families.
Assembly Bill 40 revises certain aspects of the pre-adoptive training that is required under current law for first-time adoptive parents. Specifically, the bill would require all of the following
- Twenty-five total hours of pre-adoptive training.
- At least six of the hours to be delivered in person, either individually or in a group.
- Part of the training to be delivered after the child is placed with the adoptive parents, and additional training to be offered after the adoption order is issued.
- Specific training on the issues of trauma and sexual abuse, in addition to the training on attachment, abuse, and neglect required under current rules.
- An in-person meeting with a representative of the Postadoption Resource Center that serves the area in which the adoptive parents reside to describe the support and services that are available to an adoptive family after the adoption is granted.
AB 40 also requires all counties, licensed adoption agencies, and the bureau to report the names and contact information of each adoptive parent and the adopted child, to the center that serves the area in which the parent resides.
Assembly Bill 41 requires a child who is a citizen of another country, who has been adopted in that country by a parent who is a Wisconsin resident, to be readopted in Wisconsin. If a court is satisfied that the necessary procedural requirements have been met and that the foreign court order is effective, the court must recognize the adoption granted by the foreign court and must grant re-adoption of the child under Wisconsin law.
Assembly Bill 42 was developed to provide better information on adoption in Wisconsin. It requires certain petitions and agreements related to the welfare of a child to state whether the child has previously been adopted. The bill also requires the Department of Children and Families to submit an annual report to the governor and the Legislature regarding the number of children who have previously been adopted during the preceding calendar year.
All four bills have been referred to the Assembly Committee on Children and Families.